Group Leader – Theoretical approaches to tissue biology and disease modelling
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Staff Category: Staff Member
Contract Duration: 5 years (renewable)
Grading: 9
Closing Date: 31 October 2021
Reference Number: BCN00063
At EMBL Barcelona, we go beyond the molecular and cellular scale to ask questions such as: How do thousands of cells dynamically self-organise to create tissues and organs? How do new emergent properties arise at the tissue level? Why does this sometimes go wrong, causing disease? Why do functional organs depend on complex interactions between multiple different cell types? Can we engineer healthy or novel tissues in the laboratory? How do the physical properties of tissues influence their dynamics? To tackle these grand challenges, we combine an interdisciplinary mix of approaches. We integrate molecular and cellular data with tissue engineering, multicellular omics, 3D mesoscopic imaging, computer modelling and gene circuits. Please see our web-page to understand the range of model systems we work with: We are seeking a new Group Leader to join the unit, who will develop theoretical methods to address these questions – anything from conceptual mathematical approaches, to intergrative data-driven modelling. Some of our existing groups already pursue theoretical/mathematical modelling integrated with their experimental research, and EMBL as a whole is also supporting the development of theoretical approaches to biology through Theory@EMBL - one of its important new transversal research areas:

Your role

You will lead an independent research group to pursue ambitious and original research goals. You will be embedded in the multidisciplinary and collaborative environment of EMBL, which provides many opportunities for interaction with other research groups. EMBL generally appoints group leaders early in their career and provides a very supportive, collegial and family friendly environment in which to develop exciting, cutting-edge research. Significant core funding and very limited teaching obligations allow you undertake an ambitious, competitive research program.

You have

You have an outstanding Ph.D. and post-doctoral record in a relevant scientific topic. You have strong experience in theoretical approaches to understanding multicellular systems, such as tissue and organs, and a track-record of exciting scientific achievements.

You must have a novel research proposal which ideally combines:
  • Theoretical advances: A core interest in the conceptual understanding of multicellular systems through mathematical modelling. Developing, challenging and improving the methods used to understand and predict complex multicellular phenomena. Challenging the assumptions, and pushing the state-of-the-art in tissue-scale modelling.
  • Clear scientific questions: Advancing our understanding of how biological tissues dynamically function and organise themselves, how errors in these processes lead to disease, and how they could be manipulated or even repaired. For instance, how is integrated control achieved across scales, from the molecular or cellular levels, up to the tissue or organ? How do emergent phenomena contribute to function? We encourage you to consider possible synergies and collaborations with the ongoing experimental research at the Unit. You may also run your own experimental projects within your lab, in conjunction with theoretical approaches.
In addition, you should have strong interpersonal skills to provide leadership and guidance to team members. The ability to work independently and to participate in a collaborative team effort is critical, as is a pro-active and positive problem solving mind-set. Fluency in English is essential. 

You might also have

EMBL’s new research areas aim to advance our understanding of ecosystems at the molecular level, applying expertise in molecular biology to study life in its natural context (Molecules to Ecosystems). These themes will study how organisms interact with each other and respond to environmental change, at multiple levels (molecules, cells, tissues and populations). EMBL Barcelona would be happy to host groups whose research might relate to any of these new transversal themes - Planetary Biology, Microbial Ecosystems, Infection Biology or Human Ecosystems.

Why join us

EMBL appoints group leaders from early in their career and provides a very supportive environment for your first independent position in order to achieve your research goals. The initial “Lead your Lab” management training is provided for all incoming group leaders.

EMBL offers a highly collaborative, uniquely international culture. The various EMBL units are strongly connected and cross-unit collaborations are not only possible but also strongly encouraged. We foster top quality, interdisciplinary research by promoting a vibrant environment consisting of early-stage independent research groups with access to outstanding graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and core facilities.

EMBL is an inclusive, equal opportunity employer offering attractive conditions and benefits appropriate to an international research organization with a very collegial and family friendly working environment. The remuneration package comprises a competitive salary, a comprehensive pension scheme, medical, educational and other social benefits, as well as financial support for relocation and installation, including your family. EMBL is committed to internationality, diversity and equality, and as such encourages applications from underrepresented groups.

What else you need to know

We are Europe’s flagship research laboratory for the life sciences – an intergovernmental organisation performing scientific research in disciplines including molecular biology, physics, chemistry and computer science. We are an international, innovative and interdisciplinary laboratory with approx. 2 000 employees from many nations, operating across six sites, in Heidelberg (HQ), Barcelona, Cambridge, Hamburg, Grenoble and Rome.

The working language of the institute is English.

Important information for application submission:

In your online application, you will be asked to include a cover letter, your CV, the names and contact details of 3 referees and a concise description of research interests & future research plans, typically not exceeding five pages. As part of the application package, you must send a short 3 minute video pitch. The goal of this video is to summarize your main interests, motivations and directions for your future independent research at EMBL. Consider this as an intro to your chalk talk (slides are allowed). What do you really want to achieve? How would you summarise in no more than 3 minutes your primary/secondary goals, with a mention of the approaches you would employ, and possible synergies with the EMBL Barcelona Unit? The video will be used in conjunction with the written documents as part of the application package – but it will not have more weight than the rest. More details on format/restrictions are available on request.

Interested candidates are encouraged to make informal enquiries to the Head of Site, James Sharpe (, to learn more about this opportunity and the application process.

Further information about research at EMBL Barcelona can be found at

Information on Group Leader appointments can be found under

Interviews are planned in the week of 17 January 2022.

An initial contract of 5 years will be offered to the successful candidate. This is foreseen to be extended to a maximum of 9 years, subject to an external review.

Please apply online through: